To say Blacksburg High School has built a dynasty in boys’ and girls’ soccer might be an understatement. They both are expected to reach for another gold ring in the form of a state title.
Shelly Blumenthal is in his 27th year at the helm of the boys’ soccer coach with a 517-41-20 record.
Last year, which included a 22-0 mark and state, region and district championships, the Bruins return a stable of players that includes all-staters Sam Dickinson (12 goals, 12 assists) and Daniel Salom (10 goals and 12 assists). Dickinson missed 12 weeks with a torn hamstring.
On the offensive side of the field, the team also returns Kade Wheeler who had 15 goals and Tate Pospichal with 13 goals.
“We have to improve collectively each day, while being efficient in the process. We are hopeful we can have desirable results,” Blumenthal said.
Christiansburg has struggled on the field, but Michael Oliver is not looking back at last year’s 2-13-1 mark. He does return all-region midfielder Anthon y Giannecchini and forward Garrett Turner.
“I expect we will have a good year. The youthfulness of the past couple years has turned into a solid group of seniors and juniors who are dedicated to working hard and playing for one another,” he said.
In Riner, both the boys’ and girls’ programs have showed glimpses of success. Kris Teaford’s boys’ team finished 15-6-2 last season. The boys lost some key players in Cameron Chestnut, Chase Phillips, Richie Roma and Lukas Matthews. Chestnut and Phillips were all-state Class 1 first team and grabbed similar regional and district marks, but there are plenty returning to make a run deep into the playoffs this season.
Keeper Carter Brockman returns after being named first-team all-state in goal. He was also the Region C and Mt. Empire District goalkeeper of the year. Last season, he had four games with goals allowed.
Junior Gage Phillips is also back after scoring 24 goals with 18 assists. Senior forward Triston Perry could be the key. He had 17 goals last season and seemed to be in the middle of everything when it came to the offense and was also a first team all-state player.
“Last year, we set a program record for wins in a season and advanced to the state tournament for the first time losing to the eventual state champions in the semi-finals. This year, with so many players returning with experience we are looking to build on that success and hopefully be playing again in June,” Teaford said.
But they will have to find a way to get out of the Mt. Empire District, one the coach calls the toughest in the state Class 1A soccer.
“The defending state champions, Galax, set the standard among programs at this level winning five of the last six state championships. George Wythe plays a physically demanding style of soccer. 2A opponents Grayson County and Fort Chiswell always offer a challenge. Coming out of the district is going to be difficult but also helps prepare us for post season play,” he said.
The Auburn girls’ program is also looking for a higher mark after finishing 12-3, but it could be a rebuilding or as Coach Ashley Moreno puts it “reloading.”
“We had a six-senior class that we graduated last year who became our core the past four seasons. It is going to be difficult to replace their strong presence and experience on the field,” she said.
The Eagles do return: Senior Captain Jessica Musselman, 1st Team All-Region with 33 goals and 3 assists last season. Junior Captain Elizabeth Tomlin with 4 goals and 3 assists. Goalkeeper, Rachel Rodriguez with 51 saves last year, and junior defender Abby Lafon with 1 goal and 1 assist.
“This season will be different for Auburn girls’ soccer with new faces on the field, but I do not expect anything less than before for these girls. These girls are as hard working as always and are driven to be successful not just for themselves but for their teammates. It should be another memorable season for the Eagles,” Moreno said.
In Christiansburg, the team graduated six seniors but the cubbard is not bare and they will get to play on a new turf field.
Scott enters his sixth year and is coming off a 6-10-2 record last year
This season’s roster includes eight seniors and one junior returning from last season’s roster. Returning include: Madison Adams, midfielder (2 goals, 3 assists, Second Team All-District, Second Team All-Region); Michaela Weber, forward (4 goals, 4 assists, Second Team All-District, Second-Team All-Region); Carly Walden, defender (1 goal, honorable mention All-District, 2nd-Team All-Region), Jasmine Kitts, defender (1 Goal, honorable mention All-District).
“Playing a River Ridge District schedule, we know we’ll face a consistently tough slate of opponents that includes Blacksburg, Salem, Patrick Henry, Hidden Valley and Cave Spring, but we feel good about our roster that includes a group of mature and experienced returning players who love to compete and can’t wait to get going. We’re also excited to open our first season on our new turf field. Due to the field construction last spring, we played every game on the road – we now are very fortunate to have one of the nicest fields in southwest Virginia and it’ll be great to be back in our home,” Duff said.
This might be the biggest chance Auburn High School has to bring home at state championship in softball. David Hurd took the Eagles to a step away last season, finishing 25-1. He has compiled a 276-141 record in 20 years at the school.
“Our goal is to win the state championship. There are many teams with the same goal but having been so close last year it is something we are very focused on this year. The players are hungry and feel that there is some unfinished business to take care of,” he said.
The team returns a group of seniors that would do nothing less than finally receive a state ring. Those include Skylar DeHart, a Virginia Tech signee who had 220 strikeouts in 135 innings pitched with a 1.45 ERA. Offensively McKenzie Lawrence, a Wingate signee, hit .430 with six home runs and 30 RBIs. Also, catcher Abby Wilson, a RU signee, had eight homers with 39 RBIs, and Emily Scaggs ht .511 with 32 RBIs. All three were named first team all-state.
Blacksburg’s 2019 version is already 8-2 in softball after a shutout of Pulaski County 4-0 on Tuesday with Katie Currin continuing a hot streak with a home run and a 3-for-4 day at the plate.
Christiansburg is now 5-4 overall but 3-1 in River Ridge District play. Nate O’Dell is in his third year and finished 9-9 last season. He returns pitcher Madi Thompson who was 6-3 last year with an earned run average of 2.33. Kyndall Stanley hit .458 with nine RBI’s and eight stolen bases. Harley Dove added 19 RBI’s and hit .459 average.
Radford remains unbeaten after rolling 19-9 over Alleghany on Monday. Ty Gellner, Tiohna Eaves and Kailey Reed, all hit homeruns in the contest. Ally Brown was 5-for-5 at the plate with three RBIs.
Marissa Puckett is in his third year and finished 12-8 last year.
“We only lost two seniors, Michi Jarrett and Bailee Cox. Michi spent most of her innings pitching for us and Bailee was a very strong outfielder and lead-off hitter on the team,” the coach said.
She has some high expectations after reaching the second round of the regional playoffs, the furthest the softball program at Radford High School had ever advanced.
“We are really looking forward to what this young-group can accomplish, as many have played together for several years. The expectation is to go deeper into the post-season and find a way to beat the teams that normally stay at the top of the district. We’ve got a group that exhibits a quiet confidence and are excited to step back out on the dirt together again,” Puckett said.
Lacrosse is still a young sport at Christiansburg and Blacksburg, but year two looks promising especially with the addition of junior varsity teams.
The Blacksburg boys finished 5-10 last season but have already shown some spark this season. Geoff Rowland is leading the program and will look to Jayme Hollimon in goal. Last season, Hollimon had 115 saves for an outstanding 61 percent mark.
Chase Seward is back after picking up 31 points with 40 ground balls. Aist Rowland added 55 ground balls with Andrew Hutton, Kaleb Edwards and Noah Tagg, all playing important roles.
“We have a tough schedule. With a team of developing players who are working hard, we expect to improve steadily over the course of the season,” Rowland said.
In Christiansburg, Matt Heron put together a 4-8 mark last year. This year, things are expected to be a little better as every starter returns.
Those include: Matthew Davidson (25 Goals, 4 Assists) Second Team All Roanoke Attack, Second Team All-Region Attack; Mac Padgett (5 Goals, 9 Assists) Honorable Mention All-Roanoke Midfield, Second Team All-Region Defense; Kyle Herndon (1 Goal, 8 Assists) Honorable Mention All Roanoke Midfield, 2nd Team all-Region Midfield; Rafael Laureano SR (161 Saves) Honorable Mention All-Region Goalie; and Grayson Semones (14 Starts, 2 Assists as a Freshman) Honorable Mention All -Region Defense.
Heron expects this team to compete for a playoff spot (10 teams in the division, 8 teams get in based off of regular season games).
Coach Kati Williams led the Blacksburg girls to a 5-11 mark in 2018. The team only lost one key player and is excited what can be here in the present.
“Over 65 percent our team is new or in their second season of playing lacrosse. I expect that we will continue to grow in our stick skills and knowledge of the game. I think we have made huge strides, and I’m expecting that to continue,” she said.
Last season, the Lady Bruins lost close games to William Byrd and Cave Spring. This season, Williams returns a key cog in the form of goalie Zenna Carson who had a 52 percent save average. Midfielder Katie Racek had 21 goals, over 80 ground balls and 32 draw controls. Sophie Hutton also had 22 goals.
Defensively look for Molly McPherson, Rachel Day and Zera Williams should all play key roles.
In baseball, Eric Morgan’s team in Blacksburg is hungry. He is his sixth year and is coming off a 4-14 season, but the Bruins have some high expectations.
“We have guys that have now been in the program for 4 years and are prepared to make contributions. The team is hungry and practicing very hard. I am excited to see what they can accomplish,” he said.
So far this season, they are 6-2 including this week’s 11-1 win over Pulaski County. Craig Weaver had two hits, two stolen bases an RBI and scored three runs.
Christiansburg is also seeing some success in a season that was slowed by wet fields. The Blue Demons are now 7-2 as Brady Kirtner is the team’s ace. Against Patrick Henry earlier this week he had 12 strikeouts with no runs.
Last season, Dale Nelson’s squad was 13-8. He is 54-32 in five seasons at the school. The Blue Demons do return first-team all-River Ridge first baseman Zalen Akers, Kirtner on the mound and his battery mate Reagan Harris at catcher.
Nelson has a young but talented group with six 10th graders on the roster.
Auburn’s baseball season is built on its past success, and they would love nothing more but to get back to the state tournament and see what happens from there. Eric Altizer is in his 14th season at the school and finished 18-3 a year ago, losing in the state quarters to PH-Glade Spring.
They return: Trevor Miles-1B- .484-27 RBI; Carter Keith-OF-.441-29 RBI; Keith Reed-OF-.435-32 RBI; Brady Harris-INF-.406-29 RBI; Drew Hill-OF/C-.308; Austin Kirtner-3B-.302; and Taylor Newcome-INF-.297-32 runs scored.
Eastern Montgomery is still trying to find its groove in the Pioneer District, but they picked up a major win in the Pioneer this week in a 13-4 game with Craig County.